Tanglu

By Matthias • Debian, English, Freedesktop, General, KDE, Linux • 14 Mar 2013

Hi everyone!

Today I make an announcement I thought I would never ever make. But things changed.

Discussion about this has a long history, starting as a non-serious suggestion at DesktopSummit 2011, continued with people on IRC, but it was decided back then that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. This has changed too, and a small team has formed to work on it.

We hereby announce Tanglu, a new Debian-based-Linux distribution.

A new logo?Why do we need another one? Let me explain the concepts of that distro:

Tanglu will be based on Debian Testing and follow the Debian development closely. It will have a 6-months release-cycle and it’s target audience are Linux desktop users. We will make installing and setting up the distro as easy as possible.

Tanglu will be usable for both developers of upstream software and the average Linux user and Linux newbie. This is possible because in our opinion developers and users don’t have different needs for a desktop system. Both kinds of users like a polished desktop which “just works”. We will, hwever, not apply any kind of fancy modification on upstream software, we will basically just distribute what upstream created, so users can get an almost “pure” GNOME and KDE experience.

Tanglu is designed to be able to solve the issue that Debian is frozen for a long time and Debian Developers can’t make new upstream versions available for testing easily. During a Debian freeze, DDs can upload their software to the current Tanglu development version and later start the new Debian cycle with already tested packages from Tanglu. The delta between Tanglu and Debian should be kept as minimal as possible. However, Tanglu is not meant as experimental distribution for Debian, so please upload experimental stuff to Experimental. Only packages good enough for a release should go into Tanglu.

Ideally, Tanglu and Debian should be working well together in mixed environments, where you for example have Debian servers and multiple Tanglu desktops with the new software, targeted at desktop user. Since the differences between Tanglu and Debian should not be very high, administering both systems should be very easy (if you know Debian).

Tanglu will be an open project, driven by community. At the beginning of each cycle, people can make suggestions for release goals they want to implement (similar to Fedora, but without FESCo). These proposals are discussed in public and are rejected if there are major technical concerns. If consensus about a certain proposal is lacking, a vote is done for it. The proposal can be accepted with absolute majority. If this does not happen, the proposal is postponed for the next release, where people can vote for it again. If nobody wants that function, it is rejected. In general, decisions made by Debian are superior and have to be followed.

We don’t think we know every package and every software better than the original upstream. That’s why it makes much sense to rely on feedback from others and to have a community-based and peer-reviewed distribution, instead of secretly developing stuff and dumping it on the community. Tanglu will have a highly predictable set of features, defined at the beginning of a cycle, so you will know what you can expect from the next release as soon as possible and plan for it.

Tanglu will make it easy to deploy applications for it. It will contain a software-center, similar to what Ubuntu has. We will also try to establish a solution for a “Linux-AppCenter”, a place for Linux applications, which will be open not only for Tanglu, but can be implemented in any other distribution too. Possible income will flow back into development of the platform.

Now, let’s answer the FQA (Future Questions Asked):

Why don’t you contribute to Debian directly and create yet another distribution?

First of all, we contribute to Debian ;-) And for me, I can say that I will contribute to Debian even more. The point is that Debian can not cover all possible use-cases, and with Tanglu we want to make a distro which solves this. You might ask why we have to create a new distro for that, instead of creating improvements inside Debian? Creating a new distro allows us to do stuff we can never do in Debian. For example, we will include proprietary firmware in that distro, we will make installations of proprietary stuff possible easily (but don’t ship with it by default) and we will have a time-based release cycle. These are already things which are a no-go for Debian, and that’s fine. We don’t want Debian to support these cases, as it is already a great distribution. We want to offer a distro as close to Debian as possible, but with a few modifications for use-cases which are not covered by Debian itself. Of course we will participate in DEX.

If Debian Developers contribute to Tanglu, freezes will take even longer!

This is an often-heard concern, it comes up on every mailinglist discussion about continuing development while freeze. I would disagree here, packaging new upstream stuff is not slowing down testing and improving of packages in Testing. Also, Tanglu is an offer for Debian developers to participate (we will sync privileges for their packages) – we don’t expect anyone to work on it, but as we think DDs know their packages best, we will make it possible for them to participate without extra barriers. We hope that Tanglu can add value to Debian and that Debian cycles can start with better-tested packages.

You said you are a small team – you cannot develop a whole distribution with it!

Let’s put that to the test! ;-) All people working on this are well aware of the issue that the project can not survive without much community-involvement on the long run. But we see a chance that many people are interested in it and that there is a high demand for it.

At the beginning, we will just start with a small set of packages. We will also sync many packages from Ubuntu, to reduce workload. For example, it is planned to use the Ubuntu-Kernel and KDE packaging. By doing this, we keep the workload at the beginning low. We also reduce duplicate work with that.

We even have some possible sponsors for the new distribution. But nothing is set in stone yet, so just wait for it to happen. :)

Why not participate in Arch, OpenSUSE $other_distro?

These are not Debian ;-) . I know, it sounds odd, but if you like the Debian way of doing things, you want to use a Debian-based distribution. There is nothing wrong with OpenSUSE. And Debian has issues too. But we want to be close to Debian and use it’s tools and way of doing things.

I hate you!!! You are doing it wrong!! The project is useless!

Well, that’s fine. But there is no reason for hating us. If you dislike our idea, there are basically two options: First, you hate us but the project is successful. In that case, you have been wrong with hate, as there are definitely people who liked the project and contributed to it. Second, you hate us and we fail. In this case, there is no reason for hate, as the project will just vanish and you don’t have to worry about it. So hating it would’ve been just a big waste of energy.

Also keep in mind that forking is a way to keep development healthy and to adapt software to new use-cases which it didn’t target before. And we are not introducing incompatibilities here (like e.g. writing our own display server could). Instead, we want to stay close to Debian and reuse as much code as possible.

Which desktop will you use?

Everyone can add a new desktop to Tanglu, as long as the desktop-environment is present in Debian. Long term, we will have to offer Linux-newbies a default flavour, probably by setting a default download on the website. But as long as there is a community for a given desktop-environment, the desktop is considered as supported.

At the beginning, we will focus on KDE, as many people have experience with it. But adding vanilla GNOME is planned too.

Can you say something about the software used in Tanglu?

Yes, but this is still in flow, so I can’t promise final decisions here. On the server, side, we will try to use the Dak for repository management, as soon as we have enough server capacity. We will also use the standard Debian repository GUI and basically reuse most of the software there, to diverge less from Debian.

The distribution itself could probably use a Linux Kernel from Ubuntu and systemd as the primary init system, as well as the login manager logind. It will be based on current Debian Testing with some fresh packages from Unstable and Experimental. We might also use the Ubuntu driver packages and KDE packaging. We expect to have a very rough start with the first release, but there will be enough time to polish Tanglu.

UPDATE20140214: Just because this pops up online incredibly often: Tanglu does not and will likely not use an Ubuntu Kernel. Tanglu 1 (Aequorea Victoria) ships with Linux 3.12 derived directly from Debian.

Nice idea! How can I help?

Well, you can help with basically anything at time – from writing manuals, over designing logos and pages to administering a webserver and create packages. We are at an early stage of development at the moment, but we wanted to go public with it as soon as possible, to include the community and receive feedback so we can make that distro community-centric from the beginning. Most of the infrastructure is currently in progress too.

So, if you want to get started with Tanglu, subscribe to our mailinglist tanglu-devel and write a mail to it, intruducing yourself. We can then include you in the loop. Generally, if you want to get access to our machines, a trusted GPG-signature will help a lot.

If you want to talk to us, join #tanglu-devel or Freenode! Most discussions are currently happening there.

And that’s it! Tanglu will be awesome!

Some other projects of mine will develop a bit slower because I am now involved in Tanglu. But nothing will stop, and there is some pretty cool stuff coming for both GNOME and KDE (and I still have to implement DEP-11 for Debian). :)

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81 Responses

  1. thechef

    Interesting project.

    But I wonder if it will ever be possible to have a distro which strictly sticks to Debian Stable repositories directly regarding the “core” userspace and system applications wherever there is a complicated dependency soup, but deliver up to date applications, games and kernel where dependencies are simple and more dependent on “release” tests rather than integration tests on the distro, so doesn’t need to be frozen to “have control” over it.

  2. x

    Distro Debian Testing based whith ordered menu KDE Mageia/Mandriva style + Synaptic KDE=guaranteed success!!!!!!!

  3. x

    Distro Debian Testing based with ordered menu KDE Mageia/Mandriva style + Synaptic KDE=guaranteed success!!!!!!!

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  5. Thomas Goirand

    Hi,
    If the goal is just adding firmware, and up-to-date kernels, then users can just use these:
    http://kmuto.jp/debian/d-i/

    then if the problem is just the freeze which is taking too long, well, you could try to work your way in Debian so that it takes less time. The freeze for Wheezy was frustrating for everyone. Instead of pushing others to work outside of Debian because of that, you should try to push for more contributions to d-i, which is understaffed, and the major blocker for the freeze (as always).

    If you had other motivations, I would understand, but it just doesn’t cut it for me (sorry).

    • It’s not just adding firmware – it’s basically doing what Ubuntu did, but close to Debian and Stallman-freindly ;-)
      We cannot simply force people to work at d-i, and I don’t think it would make the release faster.
      In any case, users have different needs, some like short release cycles, some don’t, some want a server-freindly OS, some want something they can install on desktops (with all the bling-bling).
      If Tanglu can offer this choice and attracts more users, who will also stay close to Debian, Debian will benefit from it. (Also testing new stuff in Tanglu is a plus)
      Criticizing the length of the freeze was not my intention. I just thing that having a distro *without* a freeze but updates software is a great thing.
      Trying to achieve the same in Debian would mean requesting it to switch to time-based releases, which nobody wants. Tanglu is a (possible) way how many people can be happy.

      • ...:)

        but close to Debian and Stallman-freindly ;-)

        I don’t think we can include the proprietary firmware and call it RMS friendly.

        Though it’ll be easier for someone to just free Tanglu from proprietary things, put the Linux-Libre kernel, set up a completely free repo, and make an honest claim that it’s up-to-date than it would’ve been with some other distros…..

  6. Pingback: Wie Debian, nur aktuell? | ultramachine

  7. pepe

    Lastima, no me gusta KDE ni Gnome, prefiero XFCE o MATE 0 LXDE. Pero habra que probarlo. La idea es muy buena, lastima, repito, el escritorio. :(

    • Fernando

      Lo que es una lástima es que ubuntu haya arraigado tanto en sus usuarios la relación unívoca entre distribución y escritorio. Cualquier usuario promedio de Debian sabe que lo puede cambiar en el momento que quiera y por lo que comentan aquí, con Tanglu no será diferente.

  8. Bernat

    I like very much the idea I get from the first half of the article but I don’t get it fully. You don’t want to diverge much from Debian but you will be using Ubuntu packages and setups, then just KDE, vanilla Gnome will come later… ? I don’t get it.

    Again, I like very much the idea of a user friendly, more up-to-date distribution working very close to Debian with minimal differences, but then it seems it’ll be very different to Debian, almost like Ubuntu.

    I just gave up on Ubuntu for friends and family in favor of Debian.

  9. Gonzalo

    Interesting approach: a more updated Debian, but not so “commercial and selfish” as other derivatives had become. I liked the “…close to Debian and Stallman-freindly” definition :-)

    Godspeed!

  10. Yro

    Well, I like the idea but hate the non-stable way… My hardware is in legacy mode :P

    Im starting to make my Debian Wheezy derivative distro / Im just mounting my own distro on top of debian stable so I can have an great alternative to old days ubuntu… And until now I am doing that with great results.. My goal is to have Debian Wheezy + kernel patched with more firmwares but on top of legacy (3.2/3.4 for amd radeon legacy videocards) + mate desktop + ubuntu (forked) lts font rendering + updated softwares + some changes that im doing here and there… The distro is running nicely and with a creazy low resources usage (something like lubuntu on ram and cpu usages). As I dont have resources ($$$) and sadly I dont have the time to maitain this as an distro for everyone, Ill just make it as an flavor for my personal desktops, notebooks, tabblets and some clients of mine… But I still have hope that someday somebody will bring us this kind of idea… btw, I dont like the “logos and icons” thing so my distrohasent changed any of the debian visual marks. Thats some kind of appeal for anybody to go for this goal as of mine…

    any way… good luck with this project and god bless us!

    sorry about my bad english.. from Brazil and not using google translator.

  11. Ciccio

    You plan to recycle Ubuntu patches? Not a wise move.
    In my case I get errors with X and two different wifi adapters don’t work while everything is fine with Debian “stable” and “testing”. Good luck with reporting bugs to Canonical and having them fixed.
    In short your distro will be bugged like Ubuntu but with less eyecandy. And I don’t see the point. Pity.

  12. Gerald

    Tanglu sticks with debian testing, so has it then a semi rolling release model like LMDE or SolydXK? And when why not contribute there? Or is it like Ubuntu, every half a year a new release? How long is a release then supported? Can i upgrade it easily like Ubuntu?

  13. Nelson

    If possible, a good hardware support would be nice for newbies.
    I’m always listening to complaints about how Realtek hardware does not work “out of the box”, like the always problematic 8188CE and 8192CE wireless cards.
    It’s time for destroy the mith that Unix-based operating systems have of “it’s only for programmers”.

    Grüßen aus Vogtland!!

  14. Tony

    Good project! But I like to see LXDE, XFCE and/or E17 desktops. KDE is too heavy for many older machines and it gets more heavyer in time! Please think about lightwight desktop enviroments and window managers.

    • Cae

      Just to share with those of you how have the “legacy hardware” problem –

      I am using a 7+ year old desktop with Debian (installing by netinst), adding kde-plasma desktop (since my wife is used to dolpin, kget, klipper etc) but booting into fluxbox.

      And the deskop is running fine with the onboard video chip after the dedicated nvidia video card die 2 years ago :)

  15. I appreciate your initiative and work.
    I already use three very good GNU/Linux Distros.
    One of them is Debian and, I am sorry for having to say that,
    it’s always my last choice between the three.

    I will keep track of your distro.

    Thank you for your contribution to the hacking community!
    yours,
    Paolo VM “argento”

  16. arka

    Nice distro, just as always with new dervivate distros, the relevance for the broader audience is probably limited.

    Why aren`t you offer an integrated TOR-browser optional besides a common firefox\iceweasel? In times where surveillance snooping is daily business there are only a very limited number of distros offering anonymity.

    Especially a distro startet in Germany, one of the most surveilled countries in Europe, would be nice to see offering anonymity solutions.

    It would enhance relevance and attention on the wider scale.

    Thumbs up, anyway!

  17. I am looking for a distribution optimized for senior citizens and maintainable by theie (in most cases bprobably) younger relatives. Desktop sharing and remote maintenance would be an important feature. Tanglu may not be the best choice for that (in comparison to debian stable), but I think that a distribution for the a.m. user droup could make a difference. — Regards from Munich — Götz

  18. tek_heretik

    I also appreciate your efforts but the second I read “it is planned to use the Ubuntu-Kernel”, that’s a deal killer for me, I have recently went to great lengths to distance myself as far as possible from Ubuntu. I may give it a live test drive for schizz n giggles eventually, after it’s out of diapers, lol. ;-D

    I am currently running pure Xfce Wheezy on my dual SSD ‘fake/hardware’ Raid 0, will you be offering Raid support like Debian or the *buntus?

    I also went to great lengths avoiding any apps that would drag in huge amounts of the Gnome 3.x or KDE desktop libs and files, I’m sick of bloat and watching DE wars unfold on my own computer’s desktop, the battle for supremacy, lol, I’m also tired of having a DE schizophrenic install.

  19. Miguel Herrera

    I appreciate Tanglu because of it’s “hybrid” roots. I am looking to drop Ubuntu and any of it’s derivatives and am looking at replacements that offer somewhat of the same experience. I don’t need all the Ubuntu hand holding, I just need something that works with multimedia and productivity (sounds like an oxymoron huh?) right out of the box. So my distro of choice has been Ubuntu with Unity removed and Xfce installed (very nice!).

    My system is only used for my personal freelancing and I don’t need (cannot and will not) spend lots of (any time) on configuring, stabilizing and installing a bunch of stuff just to get back to work.

    Thank you Tanglu team for producing this distro.

    BTW: I am not a Gnome (or KDE) fan, but I can’t argue with the whole concept and that Tanglu is offering me a great option in “de-Ubuntuizing” my laptop and allowing me to get back to work in a very reasonable amount of time with a very stable system. Up until now I was an Xfce hard-head, and time will tell, but right now and from what I’ve seen of it; Tanglu looks like a winner.

  20. e

    Why not contributing to Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE)??

    You seem to have a similar approach, Debian testing based and compatibility + some additional package + non-free additions. I don’t see that much of difference, you should at least get in contact with them and see if you can merge the distros, otherwise it will be double effort!

    Cheers and best wishes

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  22. MH

    I don’t get all the comments asking why you don’t work on some other distro. I applaud your vision and I think you nailed it. My all-time favorite distro was Libranet, which had exactly the same vision. No one else has come close. I also especially appreciate the focus on KDE. There are far too many GNOME oriented distros already. I never understood why Debian itself didn’t decide to default to KDE.

    Of course, as always, the proof is in the pudding. I hoping for the best and looking forward to your success.

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